The Girl In The Nonsensical Cyber-Thriller

Can Lisbeth Salander Save Us From Implausible Plot Devices?

Righter of Wrongs Lisbeth Salander is back with her back tat. That girl with the dragon tattoo, butch-punk hacker extraordinaire and signature star of author Steig Larsson’s posthumously published Millennium Trilogy, is such a magnetic character that a trio of actresses have played her in the past decade. Noomi Rapace holds the threepeat record in the original Swedish films based on the books. Rooney Mara vividly threw down in David Fincher’s majestically seedy adaptation of the first installment. And now it’s Claire Foy’s turn.

The royal star of Netflix’s The Crown does a fantastic job transforming herself from a complex British monarch to a bitter, traumatized Nordic cyberwarrior. But what’s a Ducati-straddling girl to do when the movie’s such a mess? David Lagercrantz wrote the superfluous fourth installment after the original crime thrillers became international blockbusters. So already the film is based on a cash-grab. And when money’s the motivating factor, there’s very little that will stop narrative incoherence and character incredulity from seeping in.

Directed by: Fede Álvarez
Written by: Jay Basu, Fede Álvarez, Steven Knight
Starring: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant
Running time: 115 min.


The high-tech avenging angel, a “girl who hurts men who hurts girls” and herself a victim of sexual abuse, is such a potent #MeToo zeitgeist figure that the film’s fundamental shortcomings feel doubly insulting. Implausibility is too generous a word to describe all the bananas shenanigans that unfold in the Scandinavian underworld. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

Salander uses a cellphone the same way Harry Potter uses a wand. Just a simple finger tap seems to magically decrypt bank accounts, manipulate airport terminal computer systems, and trigger air bags in high-speed car chases. A villain injects you with some loopy, paralyzing serum? Good thing that stranger’s safe-house bathroom happens to include a handy stash of amphetamines. And the film’s MacGuffin is the height of paranoiac idiocy: a so-called “missive encryption system” that somehow takes control of all the nukes in the world. So a single user can start World War III from a laptop. Because that’s totally how technology works.

Slick Uruguayan director Fede Álvarez adds a muscular visual panache to the insanity, permeating the sumptuous film with icy dread. But it still doesn’t explain why Lakeith Stanfield, an otherwise delightfully laid-back NSA tech wiz, suddenly reveals himself to be a deadeye sniper. And why so many big red kill-switch buttons? Stanfield hits a big red button. Foy hits two of them! You’ll be wishing you could, too.

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Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett is the former film editor of 'Time Out New York’ and has written about the movie industry for more than 20 years. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer, Garrett is also the founder of Jump Cut, a marketing company that creates trailers and posters for independent, foreign-language, and documentary films.

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